The Gun in the Room
by Stefan Molyneux
I was recently involved in a debate with a woman about public schools. Naturally, she came up with reason after reason as to why public schools were beneficial, how wonderful they were for underprivileged children, how essential they were for social stability etc etc. Each of these points – and many more – could have consumed hour upon hour of back and forth, and would have required extensive research and complicated philosophical reasoning. But there was really no need for any of that – all I had to do was keep saying:
“The issue is not whether public schools are good or bad, but rather whether I am allowed to disagree with you without getting shot.”
Most political debates really are that simple. People don’t get into violent debates about which restaurant is best because the state doesn’t impose one restaurant on everyone – and shoot those trying to set up competing restaurants. The truth is that I couldn’t care less about this woman’s views on education – just as she couldn’t care less about my views – but we are forced to debate because we are not allowed to hold opposing views without one of us getting shot. That was the essence of our debate, and as long as it remained unacknowledged, we weren’t going to get anywhere.
Libertarian have to keep pushing the concept that “governments are force; free markets are the ultimate expression of liberty”.
If I disagree with you about something in the government paradigm, one of us gets punished — financially, physically, or killed. In the case of financially, if the gubamint takes a portion of my past (i.e., my savings), my current (i.e., my time, my money, my earnings), or my future (i.e., prevents me from pursuing my dreams; makes me dependent upon the dole; restricts my thinking like the baby elephant so I can’t conceive of freedom), then I’m a slave to a greater or lesser degree. All we are discussing is degree. If the gubmaint doesn’t like my “side” of our disagreement, then it can send me to prison, or worse impoverish me. And, like David Koresh found out, being an enemy of the gubamint can get you very dead.
Contrast that to a free market:
If you and I disagree, they we can each “buy” our own custom solution. Peacefully and, in no way, infringing upon your choices. The marketplace uses that incredible complex calculus to compute what resources are applied to satisfy which needs. Eventually all markets clear supply and demand. (Rather quickly imho!) Everyone is satisfied at a price they are will to pay. The best use of scarce resources are “fairly” allocated to the most “urgent” use of them. So we get money by satisfying the needs of others and then we use that money to satisfy our own needs. The marketplace makes us free and harnesses our energy to the “right” problem. No one can drive us better than “greed”.
In some ways, one can blame poverty on gubamint, because it’s taxes and intrusions makes us “poorer”! Look at the countries in Africa for true government induced poverty.
So, in the cited example of “public education”, some are forced pay for what other’s want. With a goodly handling fee for the gubamint and all the squealing pigs involved. And, it delivers a terrible product. If public education was a car maker, no one would buy it.
If I was a poor inner-city minority, then I’d call this like Walter Williams said. “If the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan set out to destroy black academic excellence in Philadelphia, I doubt whether he could achieve as much damage.”
Why do we tolerate this non-sense?
Government forces us to!